Sunburn - What Really Happens to Your Skin

Have you ever experienced a dreaful sunburn on your skin after a whole day in the sun? Or have you felt sick from overexposure to the sun?

Although we all love the long summer days and being able to enjoy ourselves outdoors, there's nothing worse than realising, at the end of the day, that we got badly sunburned!

What exactly is a sunburn?

Sunburn is a radiation burn to the skin caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. This radiation can harm and damage the skin on hot, cool and even cloudy days - in short, it is not the heat from the sun that burns the skin, but the UV radiation.

Most people find it difficult to understand why sunburns occur, as you can see the sunlight and feel the heat, but you can not see or feel the UV radiation.

What happens to the skin when it gets sunburned?

Our blood vessels swell to increase blood flow and bring our immunity cells to the skin in order to aid in the burn. This causes our skin to look red, swollen and inflammed.

The sunburn will eventually heal, but some of the surviving cells will then have alterations that can not be repaired. These alterations are precisely what you need to be aware of and careful with, as they can lead to melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.

Sunburn can cause pain because of the heat sensation that has destroyed skin cells. Less severe burns can heal, but severely burnt skin that has had too much UV radiation will peel or blister.

Signs of sunburn

Sunburn can start to appear on the skin straight away, but some people can only feel it hours later. The redness and burn can continue to develop up to that night. It can take days or even weeks to heal a sunburn, depending on its severity.

The effects of sunburn on our skin are:

  • Redness
  • Blisters
  • Peeling
  • Thickened/wrinkling skin
  • Ageing of the skin
  • Uneven skin tone
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Freckles
  • Darker Fitzpatrick type (tanned skin)
  • DNA cells become damaged
  • Possible development of skin cancer

Why is peeling a reaction after a sunburn?

Peeling is the skin's natural way to try to protect us from the UV radiation burn. Peeling can feel itchy and irritated, but does not cause any more trauma, and it is a sign of the skin trying to heal.

Expert advice

  • Wear an SPF30+ every day and be diligent in reapplying to protect any further genetic damage to your melanocytes, stem cells and keratinocytes.
  • Hat and sunglasses will also give you further protection against UVR damage.
  • Apply your sunscreen 20-30min before heading outside, to the pool or the beach
  • Remember the UV radiation damage to our skin can NOT be reversed, so protection is a must!

Our top #3 sunscreen choices:

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ASAP SPF50+ Hydrating Defence is a 3-in-1 lightweight moisturiser + SPF + Primer that provides high UVA + UVB protection and intensely hydrates the skin.

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A sheer, mattifying broad spectrum UVB/UVA moisturiser that spreads easily and evenly for a shine-free finish. The soft matte texture makes it ideal for daily use and preps the skin for an all-day glow.

About The Author:

My name is Sari Pols,
I have been in the skincare industry for over 15 years. My passion lies in ‘Health’. Health for the skin and body. My philosophy is if we have good well-being on the inside, then it shows our vitality on the outside.
I have furthered my knowledge of Skin Anatomy, Skin Concerns, and Fitness. I am a true believer in how to make my clients feel their best both inside and out. My emphasis is on guiding my clients through their journey of skin concerns and conditions. I do not like to band-aid a concern or condition but want to get down to the root of the cause. I aim to give personalised consultations with treatment and correct prescribed skin products.

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